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Britain sanctions dozens under new human rights regime

Britain on Monday imposed dozens of sanctions against those who it accuses of committing gross human rights violations. Among those targeted include 20 Saudi nationals it accuses of being connected to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Photo by Erdem Sahin/EPA-EFE
Britain on Monday imposed dozens of sanctions against those who it accuses of committing gross human rights violations. Among those targeted include 20 Saudi nationals it accuses of being connected to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Photo by Erdem Sahin/EPA-EFE

July 7 (UPI) -- Britain said it is imposing sanctions against dozens of people involved in committing the "most notorious" human rights violations including those it accuses of killing Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The British government announced Monday that it was blacklisting 49 individuals and organizations under a new Britain-only human rights regime that gives the European nation for the first time powers to sanction individuals or entities rather than nations.

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The sanctions ban individuals from entering the country, channeling funds through British banks or profiting from its economy, the government said in a release.

"As we forge a dynamic new vision for a truly global Britain, this government is absolutely committed to the United Kingdom being an even stronger force for good in the world," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told lawmakers in Parliament on Monday. "And on human rights, we will defend media freedoms, protect freedom of religion and, with the measures we are announcing and enacting today, hold to account the perpetrators of the worst human rights abuses."

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Under the new regime, Britain sanctioned 25 Russian nationals it implicates in the 2009 death of Magnitsky who exposed the largest tax fraud in the Kremlin's history, 20 Saudi nationals it accuses of being involved in the death of Khashoggi who was killed in 2018 and two high-ranking Myanmar officials it says are involved in the systematic and brutal violence against the Rohingya people and other ethnic minorities.

Two organizations were also punished over their believed involvement in the forced labor, torture and killings of prisoners in North Korean gulags.

Raab said these are targeted sanctions that allow Britain to punish those directly involved in human rights abuses without harming the wider country and arms Britain with the ability to sanction kleptocrats and those involved in organized crime, preventing them from laundry money through British banks.

"Today, this government and this House sends a very clear message on behalf of the British people: that those with blood on their hands, the thugs and despots or the henchmen of dictators won't be free to waltz into this country to buy up property on the Kings Road or do their Christmas shopping in Knightsbridge or, frankly, to siphon dirty money through British banks or financial institutions," he said.

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Following his announcement in Parliament, Raab met with Magnitsky's widow, Natalia, and his son, Nikita, the British government said.

The Russian Embassy in Britain threatened to retaliate against Britain's "unfriendly" decision to impose sanctions, stating in a statement that "it will not improve Russian-British relations."

Britain said the ability to impose the Magnitsky-style sanctions will allow it to work independently with partners the United States and Canada, both of whom welcomed the new regime.

"This sanctions regime marks the beginning of a new era for U.K. sanctions policy and cooperation between our two democracies," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. "The U.K. Global Human Rights sanctions regime will give the U.K. a powerful new economic tool to promote accountability for human rights abuses on a global scale. The U.K.'s new powers will complement the efforts of the United States and Canada, further enhancing our ability to act together."

Global Affairs Canada tweeted it was "happy" to see Britain launch its new sanctions regime, stating "we will continue working alongside [Britain] to respond to gross violations of human rights."

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